1. Brand New Art , In the Brand New World:

By Art Historian - Johny ML | Issue 01 | SEPT 20

The world, they say, cannot be the same once the Covid-19 impact is gone. Skeptics add, would there be a scenario where Covid-19 is completely gone. The optimism in the former statement and the pessimism expressed in the latter in fact are the sentiments that prevail all over the world today. Change has always been there unchanged with or without a pandemic; only thing is that we do not notice. A pandemic creates an unprecedented and unprepared for rupture that would take many years to repair. But life has to go on in the previous or in an altered fashion. Symptoms and signals are already there; the very sight of people wearing mask is not only a sign of virus deterrence but also a change in the way people perceive themselves as ‘dressed’ in the society. So are the several small and big adjustments that people all over the world have been taking since the outbreak of the Corona Virus. In this context, be sure, art cannot be the same as the pre-Covid-19 days for art is a product of the human imagination and the societies imagined, realized and activated by them. One of the major concerns of the artists has been this; would all the avenues of exhibiting art be closed forever and be relocated in the virtual spaces? For many years, since the advent of the virtual space, artists have been using this space to circulate their aesthetical works and also to find new commercial and profitable avenues elsewhere other than their places of origin. Virtually the geographical borders of art dissemination came to be dissolved in this process and shift of the global art market to the virtual platforms also facilitated free flowing of art works and finance across the world producing larger networks of aesthetical and business interests. Today, even the provincial artists find their fans and followers from across the globe irrespective of their cultural affiliations. However, there is a sense of dejection among the artists whose die-hard belief in the very act of viewing a work of art in its original. The concern is legitimate and has to be addressed with due respect and care. Art, they feel has to be seen directly for a fuller and all round aesthetical experience.

Mr. Johny ML - Art Historian / Cultural Critic / Art Curator / Art Writer

2. Art and the Question of Authorship and Ownership in the Internet Era:

By Narendra Raghunath | Issue 01 | SEPT 2020

In this article, Narendra Raghunath, Visual Artist and faculty, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore draws on personal experience and discusses the complexities of authenticity, authorship and ownership rights of art and the image in the contemporary art world.

A couple of years ago, I received an odd request from an unknown person in New York, to authenticate two works of mine. The work looked like mine, except it had some colour fading. It also had my name on the left bottom part in English, as I often write. The only problem was I had no Idea of such a sale or transfer. On further inquiry, I learnt that he sourced the work from a struggling Indian art student. During those days, if anyone would image search my work, Google strangely enough, showed a popular Hollywood actress’s name! This Indian student smartly used that opportunity and somehow managed to convince this poor chap that this actress was a big collector of my work.

During that period, I also had a website where I occasionally published some of my explorations with the caption that ‘none of the works are for sale’. This smart student utilized all these to his advantage to fleece this investor – for a cool $4,800 - for the downloaded prints.But, once the collector began to have doubts about the signature in the authentication letter, he contacted me for verification. The entire episode filled me with mirth. I informed the buyer that there was a colour issue with the print and offered to send him a new set of prints of the same works with my pencil signature (courier costs to be borne by the collector). He happily agreed, and as I did not want the Indian student to get caught in a serious crime in the US, I left it that.

Mr. Narendra Raghunath - Art Writer /Art & Design Instructor / Faculty @Sristi Manipal Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Bangalore, India / Founding Member of Sidharth Foundation / Art &Design Consultant.

Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa, oil on wood panel by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1503–19; in the Louvre, Paris. PIC COURTESY @ Everett-Art/Shutterstock.com

This entire episode provoked me into a deep philosophical question of authenticity of authorship and ownership of an artwork. History of art is filled with stories where the artists and their families died in poverty while their work, later on, made many others billionaires.

If one would Google, one will find millions of photographs of the same artwork with million others’ copyright watermark on it. Cropped differently (composition) with altered colour schemes and digitally enhancements; most of them render the original work into oblivion. Before one jumps into an ethical or moral judgment about the entire affair, one may have to consider some serious philosophical artistic issues involved with image making in this entire affair. Allow me to explain in detail.

What is original in art - Labour/craft or concept?

This is a complicated question. In Western art, from the days of guild during Renaissance to today’s postmodern artists, a large section of artists would not be able to claim authorship of the craft of labour. Most of them are made to order or are supervised. So, one may have to safely discount that claim from the originality of art. Then comes the conceptual authorship. Usually in an artwork, there are three ways an artist executes an artwork – translation, transformation and transgression. Considering these three areas are largely dealt by curatorial conceptualization in postmodern art, it leaves very little room for the authenticity of authorship of the artwork.